MORE than £25 million worth of council tax is outstanding in Edinburgh – enough to build three new primary schools.
City bosses have lodged 63,712 court actions for non-payment of council tax since 1995 – more than 3000 a year on average.
And £25,034,498.68 of tax currently remains unpaid, figures show, depriving the Capital of a vital source of income at a time of swingeing cuts.
Council tax makes up around 20 per cent of the local authority’s income, and is set to rise by three per cent from April for the first time in nine years.
Politicians insisted “every penny lost” would hit council services and add to the “burden for those decent council tax payers who pay up on time”.
Tory finance spokesman Councillor Iain Whyte said: “While the council does quite well on collection rates there is always more that can be done and this is an area that should be prioritised.
“Some political parties, like SNP and Labour who run the council, are determined to raise the council tax next year and want to raise even more from many hard-pressed Edinburgh households to spend elsewhere in Scotland. It’s time they concentrated on collecting what is already due and using that money more cost effectively instead of simply increasing the bill for Edinburgh residents.”
Edinburgh raises more than £200m a year through council tax, which is then used to fund vital services across the city.
Green councillor Gavin Corbett said council tax collection rates were “very high” compared to other taxes.
But he added: “However, £25m is a lot of money which would be better directed to service investment than sitting as bad debt. So anything that can be done to ensure that the amount is reduced is important. I know that quite a large amount of council tax debt which is nominally written off is actually charged against the property. So that if and when the property is sold years from now, the money will be recovered.
“The bigger scandal, however, is just how out of date current valuations for council tax now are. With no revaluation since the early 1990s, it is estimated that over half of properties are now in the wrong band. When council tax bills come out in March most householders will, in effect, be paying the wrong amount.”
Cllr Alasdair Rankin, the city’s finance leader, said: “We make every effort to collect council tax to ensure that we have sufficient funds to provide vital services to Edinburgh residents. In 2015/16 over 96 per cent of council tax was collected by the end of that financial year.
“The council pursues payment of all outstanding sums of money owed to us and passes accounts for recovery to the Sheriff Officers in cases where payments have not been received and reminder letters ignored.
“It is only fair for the majority of citizens here who do pay their council tax and other council charges that we take appropriate steps to recover the outstanding sums.”
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